What Size Were Brooches in the Middle Ages – Part 13 – What other things were little?

Well, this is back to where this series originally started out – looking at tiny brooches and buckles and other things. Ideally I would have planned out the entire series, written all the installments and then just published them, one at a time. The reality is that I wrote one installment and then started reacting to questions and comments that I received from readers. So it may have not been a literary gem, but my goal was to answer questions. And I think that I have been doing that. Perhaps I have encouraged people to pay more attention to the historical facts, at least as we know them, instead of just accepting modern mythology. We have fashion, availability of materials, and the size of the people to thank for some of the size issues. But functionality is also a consideration.

I learned to do tablet weaving quite a number of years ago, and my original cards were a solid four inches square. Huge cardboard squares the size of bar drink coasters, with 1/4 inch holes in all four corners. Years later, my cards are 2 1/2 inches square and they are still larger than many of the real pre-1600’s weaving cards that I have seen.

To me, learning to tablet weave was a very cool thing. An opportunity to be creative and make something the same way it was made hundreds, or even thousands of years ago. And then I saw these videos – videos of women had learned to do the same sort of crafts that I was learning. Except that they had been doing it for decades – not as a fun hobby thing, but because they actually needed to make things for everyday use. There are a bunch of these movies out there, on You Tube, under the search term “Norsk Stumfilm”. They show women and men, filmed in the 1940s, doing some of the crafts that I do for fun. This one, called bandvev, shows several techniques for weaving bands and cords. They are black and white, and have no sound, but they were designed to show the actual hand movements of the women. They actually slow down the film for us so that we can see the hand movements.

Some of the equipment is small and some larger. The last woman does what I was taught to do as a Viking Cord. I learned to do it using two people. By using four very large weighted bobbins, she can do it by herself. Yes, I will be looking into this. While the technique that I was taught is a great project for children, or for forcing adults to cooperate with each other on a productive task, I always had a hard time believing that they would actually have made the cord that way.

And then there is this lady. This is a new color video that was made in Sweden to show an old technique for weaving bands quickly on an Inkle style loom. Again her hand movements are slowed down in order for us to be able to see what she is doing. Her bobbin is just large enough to hold the weft thread and the weaving knife that she uses is of a modest size.

And the point of all of this? Do not assume that just because we use something in a specific size modernly, that it was the same size before 1600. Do not assume that all things before 1600 were large, or small, or standardized in size in any way (they may vary greatly in size from time to time and place to place). And whatever you do, do NOT assume that because it is “traditional”, or because you saw it at a Renn Faire, it is correct for the timeframe before 1600. Go forth and do research!

frühmittelalterliches Webbrettchen (Augsburg, ...

frühmittelalterliches Webbrettchen (Augsburg, Inneres Pfaffengässchen) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)